and variety of information generated by the public sector. Nevertheless, there is some room for liberalizing this further, for example, by moving away from the current demand that a person must register before being allowed to access and reuse information.
The OPSI also has developed a system known as the information fair trader scheme (IFTS). The system is intended to produce and promulgate standards across the public sector, to acknowledge best practices for encouraging fairness, transparency, and openness, and to make sure that organizations have the proper processes in place. The OPSI operates two versions of the information fair trader scheme. The more comprehensive version is aimed at major traders of public sector information, such as organizations that produce mapping or meteorological data. They use the full IFTS accreditation, which involves the OPSI sending experts into these organizations to review practices and processes. Not all holders of PSI are major traders, however, so the OPSI has identified and developed an online assessment process that is much simpler and that is aimed at these smaller users.
Working with representatives from industry and other parts of the public sector, the OPSI has also created an advisory panel on public sector information. This advisory panel provides an independent focus for the producers of PSI, who represent the interests of the information industry. These producers of PSI also are instrumental in identifying trends, providing research, and informing those in OPSI about the best approaches to the reuse of public sector information. This advisory panel is carrying out a very important function.
The OPSI also is looking at ways in which to improve access to PSI. Working with the information industry, the organization has initiated a number of different activities aimed at helping people access information more easily and at teaching them how to use the Web and the various automatic tools available for searching for and connecting with information. Of course, this is a long journey, and major challenges lie ahead.
One of the most important challenges is to make sure that there is a correct balance between the various trading models and some of the public sector organizations. In the United Kingdom is a set of organizations known as trading funds. Although a trading fund is an operation of a government department, these organizations enjoy a certain amount of self sufficiency in terms of funding, and they are encouraged to behave in a commercial manner. There are some challenges to setting up this model, and it is important to make sure that the balance is right.
A second challenge, which is identified in the EU PSI Directive, concerns the definition of a public task. This definition needs further refinement so that its meaning is precisely clear. A public task refers to activities that are regarded as being part of the public sector organization’s mission. The consequences of activities falling within the organization’s public task are limits on the extent to which that organization may operate in the information reuse domain itself as a producer of value-added products or services.
A third challenge concerns the “no obligation” aspect of the PSI directive, which is reflected in U.K. regulations as well. In the public sector, as perhaps in all of life, unless people have to do something, they tend not to do it. So the fact that there is no obligation to allow reuse has tended to lead many public sector organizations to bury